FCC chairman Ajit Pai has announced that he will deny an application from the world's largest mobile carrier to operate in the United States. China Mobile's request to provide cellular service from within the United States will be voted upon in the commission's next open meeting on May 9.
China Mobile USA, a subsidiary of the state-owned company, filed its application in 2011 to provide global facilities-based and resale telecommunications between the U.S. and "all international points." However, regulators have long doubted the telcom's intents as being in the public interest. In July of last year, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration along with other executive branch agencies suggested the FCC reject the application suggested the FCC reject the application, saying that China Mobile "would pose unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks."
Pai's full statement on China Mobile reads:
Safeguarding our communications networks is critical to our national security. After reviewing the evidence in this proceeding, including the input provided by other federal agencies, it is clear that China Mobile’s application to provide telecommunications services in our country raises substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks. Therefore, I do not believe that approving it would be in the public interest. I hope that my colleagues will join me in voting to reject China Mobile’s application.
We've reached out to China Mobile for comment and will update this story if we hear back.
U.S. intelligence and national security officials have raised the specter of China's increasing cybersecurity clout in the world. Washington has gone after ZTE for sanctions breaches and Huawei for a variety of trade infraction and fraud charges. It has also discouraged international governments from allowing Huawei 5G network equipment to be integrated into their cellular grids.
Based on Ajit Pai's earlier comments about the China Mobile application, it wasn't sounding too likely that the carrier's plans to expand to the US were going to work out. And just as expected, they haven't.
In a 5-0 vote, the Commission has denied China Mobile access to the US telephone network.
As Pai's previous remarks suggested would happen, the FCC made its ruling largely on the basis of security concerns, expressing fears that access to US telecommunication infrastructure could be used as a platform for intelligence gathering.